A Telling Poll On The Womens’ Municipal Quota

A recent poll as reported by the Jordan Times shows that 60.7 per cent of respondents agreed with the establishment of a 20 per cent quota for women in municipal councils as suggested in the draft municipalitiesâ?? law.

I haven’t heard any real counter-argument to why there is a need for such a quota, specifically at the municipal level (if you have one I’d love to hear it), so I’m sticking with my previous thoughts regarding this issue. However I do admit that I am looking at this from an abstract point of view as well as a more semi-idealistic kind of how-politics-should-be rather than what-politics-is. I base this on the account that I feel people should be elected to political office a) on their own merit and b) by the will of the people. Its politics, you run, you win, end of story. To repeat myself from a post back in December when women groups were pressuring the government for a 15 to 20% quota…

If 2003 serves any example: at the time 46 women ran and only 5 won although the government appointed one woman in every municipality where the woman candidate lost in public elections. That came out to be 97 of the 99 municipalities. Note: 46 ran, 5 won, the government appointed 97.

This was six months ago and I’m still against the government having to appoint anyone on this level anyway, so I’ve come a long way.

Nevertheless I think this is a telling poll and here’s why…

â??The poll results mark a new stage for womenâ??s participation in political and social life,â? said Senator and Secretary General of the Jordanian National Forum For Women (JNFW) Mai Abul Samen.

â??We think this means that the society is ready for women to participate as full partners,â? she added.

Abdul Samen attributes majority support for women in elected office to two factors: â??The success of women in key political roles in the past 10 yearsâ? and the struggle of womenâ??s organisations and pressure groups to change legislation and public mindset.

Doesn’t that say it all? The quota is placed as a safeguard, as a way of ensuring that women get elected. Why? Because we are a traditional backwards people and can’t be relied on to give political power to women…

In a recent interview with The Jordan Times, political analyst Amal Sabbagh described the municipalities quota as positive. She added, however, that although she welcomed the step, â??I would still hope that the Parliament quota will be maintained in the Lower House because the Jordanian population still requires such an electoral system before it totally overcomes its psychological barrier about womenâ??s political participation.â?

Here’s where I have problems with this argument. If a poll suggests the overwhelming majority of Jordanians support women playing a role in politics, to the extent that they support a quota system, doesn’t that suggest something about the psychological barriers? Doesn’t that suggest, and I’m no pollster but 60% is a big number in my head, that perhaps, maybe, I’m just saying here, that women don’t need the help we think they need in Jordanian politics? And what does it mean to totally overcome these barriers? Do we put a quota system until the number of women elected is 50% and men the other 50%? Great, I have no problem with that, except for the fact that we will never see that. I don’t really know a country where political power is evenly divided amongst the sexes. Correct me if I’m wrong. I respect the struggle to change the people’s mindset, it has obviously worked; but changing legislation?

That’s the bigger problem: this is going to be a law. And I’m going out on a limb to assume that it will pass.

I am willing to factor in recent regional events: the rise of Hamas in Palestine, the shutout of women in Kuwait (by Islamists and reformists). Nevertheless, despite regional tensions, which I acknowledge play some role on the home front, we have our own unique political culture and we should focus on that.

For God’s sake, letâ??s put away the booster seats and safety measures and build a meritocracy for once. Is that so idealistic?

I donâ??t know; maybe it is.


  • I guess that those 60% Jordanian supports political role of women as a principle but that 60% doesnt mean that they would prefer a woman in charge over a man if they had the choice.

    I am with the quota because it has been so hard on women to make it to the parliament, it is a good push towards giving women equal rights, and even if it isnt applied in any other country, I think that it would be a good move to divide seats 50%-50% among sexes, maybe leave 1% for in-between sex 😛

  • observer,

    1) this is manicipul not parliament.

    2) they already have equal rights.

    it’s like saying hillary clinton has the right to run for president, but that doesn’t mean she’ll win. you can’t force people to vote for someone simply based on their gender…people vote for candidates based on many things, we can’t regulate that, and we shouldn’t have to.

  • Yes, it is also hard for women to make it to the manicipul as well. People in Jordan still has the mentality that men can lead better.

    And I agree, they do have equal rights.

    But they are coming out after ages of opression. The field is not levelled equally (I mean in a social level). Men still have much advantage in gaining lead roles.

    If there is a conflict of interest between genders, and we have a society that is divided nearly in half between women and men, then why dont we have same numbers of each gender?

    Maybe the idea of voting for someone simply based on their gender is wrong in principle especially if you take it as you put on voting for a single seat like you said about Hilari running for president. We can’t have 2 presidents for a country, the ship would sink, but what about having a man/woman cycle. Like first elections we have only men candidate where people vote for a man to lead for 4 years, then next elections we can have only women candidates where a woman can lead for the next for years, and so on.

    I think that having number of seats divided among genders is even more fair than what we have of specifying numbers for certain religious groups or race minorities (I am talking about the parliament here in Jordan, not sure if we have the same division of seats in the manicipuls as well, do we?)

Your Two Piasters: